What do the terms budget, minimalism, frugality and investment have in common? They’re often the first words people think of when figuring out how to do everything you want and still save. They provoke subtle feelings of discomfort, even perhaps leaving us feeling a little dirty. All the enthusiasm we had a second ago with planning how we want to spend our money evaporates and we pack it in. Because let’s face it, it’s human nature to avoid what FEELS or IS PERCEIVED to be unpleasant. It is possible to afford being social, hobbies and still save.
Re-Framing The Emotional Perspective of Budget, Minimalism, Frugality and Investment
Minimalism is often associated with no toys, outfitting your living space with blank white walls and almost no furniture, skipping out on luxuries because that’s just consumerism.
Contrast perception with what it really means?
Whether it’s material possessions or commitments, these things add psychological weight and demand our energy for maintenance. ACTIVELY choose to bring ONLY what truly has value or brings you joy into your life. And only you decide what those things are. It’s different for everyone.
Frugality is often associated with being cheap, denying yourself what you want, sacrificing happiness.
What does it really mean?
It’s all about knowing yourself and living authentically. Know what values are important to you and what goals you have, WITHOUT the influence of what others or society is telling you what should be. Then make an active decision to spend money in line with this.
Budget is often associated with: painstakingly tracking your spending, allotting a certain amount of your income to each category and making sure you don’t deviate from that. Buyer’s remorse. Guilt and shame when your spending doesn’t match the plan, even if you didn’t go into debt.
What does it objectively mean?
Having a plan to spend your money in a way that’s right for you. Making a conscious choice to spend money in a way that brings you the most joy, supports your goals and values. Sounds easy enough right? Most of us are on auto-pilot and spend on items that don’t bring us closer to what we want. Or use money to buy our way out of negative emotions. Did you notice there’s no mention of HOW to budget or track? There’s many different ways; go with what works best for you.
Investment is booooring, scary, complicated. The market could crash, I don’t want to lose my money.
You guessed it! What does it objectively mean?
Giving your money a job! If you’re not using it, it better work for you. So choosing to put it SOMEWHERE in line with it’s purpose so that it can multiply into more money! I get it’s more complicated than that. But it really isn’t, not by much. It’s like anything else that’s new, it always sounds confusing and complex. Build a foundation and go one day at a time.
But…. HOW CAN I DO EVERYTHING I WANT AND SAVE?!?!
After all, that’s what you really want to know right? Then thing is, you’ve already read the whole answer above! The how isn’t actually hard. It’s making decisions that become a plan and putting it into action that’s seems to be the trickiest for most of us.
Know What’s Really Important And Brings You Happiness
I briefly touched on this earlier. Most of our spending is a mix of habits we’ve picked up over the years and a response to some sort of external emotional stimulation. It’s not to say money is being spent irresponsibly or wasted; that would imply there’s a clear understanding of a plan. The issue is not really understanding what really brings us happiness. So that’s the first step (minimalism).
- Make a list of your values and goals
- Turn you goals into SMART goals. If you’re not sure what that is, read the section on how to set measurable goals.
- Figure out what you need to do financially to accomplish your goals. For example, if you want a pony, you’ll need to know how much it’ll cost to buy and feed it. That becomes a financial goal.
You Don’t REALLY Want Everything You Think You Do
If this seems like it’s no different than figuring out what really brings you happiness, you’re not wrong. But it’s such an important point, I didn’t want it getting lost. If you feel like you have SO many goals and not enough money or time for all of them, chances are you need take a step back and re-evaluate your list. A lot of things that bring you happiness are free. Friends. Family. Nature. Goals and material items that bring you happiness requiring purchasing power are like close friends, it’s usually counted on one hand.
When a goal really matters, you’re willing to put in effort to make it happen. You want it enough to forego other items you realize don’t really bring you happiness in comparison.
Put It All Together With A Plan
One quick question, if you’re wondering how you can do everything and still save, are you saving goal(s) part of list you compiled in what’s important to you? Saving is not separate and apart of ‘what you want to do’. It’s part off our goals, just like traveling, buying a house or any other goal you listed. If it isn’t, you’ll want to re-visit your goals and what’s important to get a complete picture.
Intentionally Spending Money
Now that you’re armed with knowledge, how much you want to save, what money you need for other goals and what you value, you’re in a position to intentionally spend your money in line with all of that. This is a mix of having a plan (budget) and knowing each purchase you do supports what adds to your happiness and goals (frugality). To do this, at a minimum you need to know how much your survival needs cost (shelter, food, etc) and what income is left after that. Aside from that, how you approach planning (budgeting) is entirely up to you. Here are a few ideas…
Itemized spend plan: This is what you traditionally think of as a budget. All your income is divided into spend categories and you monitor how much you’re spending day to day to ensure you’re on track.
Pay yourself first: Deciding how much you’re going to save with each pay check. When it comes in, you move that amount straight into savings first. All other items (survival, luxury) come out of what remains.
Freestylin’: You don’t have an itemized budget or immediately move money into your savings. You spend naturally according to what’s important and set the rest aside. As long as you’re happy with your progress towards your savings goal, it’s all good.
Understanding Opportunity Cost
It has a fancy name but it’s nothing more than when you spend your money on one thing, you give up the chance of something else. Where this really get’s powerful is when you’re making day to day purchases. For example, you go out for a beer, you debate on getting another pint. If you do, say it costs $7, if you were to invest it instead, assuming 6% average historical market return, it could be worth $14 is 13 years. That doesn’t sound like much, but multiply that with the dozens of random purchases you make, it adds up! So it’s not only important to intentionally spend (or save) money in line with what brings you happiness, understanding that choosing one opportunity (purchase/saving) is delaying or trading it for another.
This is really about believing that there’s infinite opportunity to go around. Opposite of scarcity mindset, where you think there’s finite possibilities and a limited amount of opportunity to be grabbed for a particular thing. In terms of personal finances, there are endless goals, values and variation to those. There are also many paths to the same destination and many creative options to forge new paths. So get creative with maximizing your money and how you get to your goals!
When you understand what’s important to you, have a plan, intentionally spend and save in line with your values and goals, there’s no need for guilt. Even if you decide to make a purchase that isn’t quite in line with what you initially set out, if it’s made intentionally with that understanding, knowing opportunity cost to your plan, you can peacefully enjoy it without guilt.
Keep Learning and Re-fining Your Plan
How you decide to save and do everything you want is a work in progress. As you grow as a person, and life around you changes, part of intentional spending is keeping in touch with what’s important to you and makes you happy. Keep learning, growing as a person and adjust your plan so that it keeps up with who you are in the present. And enjoy the adventure!